Charlottesville police chief resigns amid criticism

Police chief resigns in a statement just weeks after a damning report on security response to a deadly neo-Nazi rally.

    A counterprotester holds a photo of Heather Heyer during a rally in Boston earlier this year [File: Michael Dwyer/AP Photo]
    A counterprotester holds a photo of Heather Heyer during a rally in Boston earlier this year [File: Michael Dwyer/AP Photo]

    The police chief of Charlottesville, Virginia, has resigned just weeks after being accused of mishandling the deadly white supremacist rally held in the city on August 12.

    Police Chief Alfred Thomas retired on Monday, according to a statement released by the city.

    The statement did not specify the reasons behind his resignation.

    "Nothing in my career has brought me more pride than serving as the police chief for the City of Charlottesville," Thomas said in the statement.

    Earlier this month, an independent report published by former US Attorney Timothy Heaphy, accused Thomas of a "slow-footed response to [the] violence", which put the "safety of all at risk and created indelible images of this chaotic event".

    That report said the authorities' response to the violent rally led to "disastrous results". 

    On August 12, hundreds of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville for a "Unite the Right" rally to protest the city's decision to remove a Confederate monument.

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    On the night before and the day of the rally, far-rightists clashed with community members, anti-racist activists and anti-fascists throughout the city.

    On Saturday afternoon, the day of the rally, James Alex Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio resident, allegedly ploughed his car into an anti-racist march and killed 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer, injuring dozens more.

    The deadly incident was captured on video.

    Fields had been photographed marching with Vanguard America, a neo-Nazi group, earlier in the day. Subsequent media reports examined Fields' social media accounts, which were laden with sympathetic references to German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Last week, Fields was charged with first-degree murder. Authorities also charged the assailant with eight counts of aggravated malicious wounding.

    The Unite the Right rally came after months of increased clashes between far-rightists and anti-fascists.

    Following Heyer's killing, the alt-right and other far-right groups were hit by a wave of cancellations across the country, with cities and universities nixing speaking events and protests.

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    The alt-right is a loosely-knit coalition of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis who advocate for a white ethnostate in North America.

    After Unite the Right, US President Donald Trump was criticised for condemning "both sides" and drawing a moral equivalency between the far-rightists and anti-fascists.

    Last week, Jason Kessler, a white supremacist who organised Unite the Right, sparked angry protests from demonstrators when he appeared at the preliminary court hearing for Fields.

    Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones announced on Monday that the city would appoint an interim police chief in a week's time. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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